Common Core Math Standards Report

The implementation of the common core math standards make me a little nervous–mostly just about the way that the states and districts would approach the curriculum and instruction alignment.  Even worse was my anxiety about the assessments–what’s the point of having shiny, new common standards if we’re going to test them with the same tired, ineffectual methods? Reading this report eased my mind and energized me.  This is something that all math department leaders need to read.

Including you…

Recommendation #11: Leverage the implementation of the CCSSM as a nationwide systemic change movement.

I, for one, am on board.  One of the key requirements of the successful move to common core standards in any content area is the ability for the nation to change the way that those contents are taught.  I’ll be looking forward to the next reports to come out from science, social studies, and language arts organizations.


P21 – A Framework for the Future

The real focus here is knowing that our students are graduating from high school without many of the skills that are going to carry them to the next step in employment or college.  The hardest part is getting the general public, policymakers, parents, and teachers—yes, teachers—to understand this fact as well.  For the next few weeks, I want to talk about some of the people and organizations who see the trends of the future—the workplace, the economy, academia, and the global up-and-comers—and who are working tirelessly to keep America in the race.  Today, I will write about a collaboration that culminates in a model that prepares students to be world-class citizens, not just high school graduates.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), through research and contributions from (and in response to) partner corporations, has built a Framework for 21st Century Learning, which is a vision for learning that outlines the skills and concepts that students must master to succeed in life.  The framework has been organized into a graphic model, with support systems as the base and student expectations as the product.  Within its foundational model of “21st Century Support Systems,” P21 has the following listed in order of broadest support to narrowest: learning environment, professional development, curriculum and instruction, assessment, and standards.  In other words, each piece of the model is supported by the preceding piece.  In this model, it is clear that curriculum and instruction are supported and put in motion by the development of the professional educators.

Several states have adopted the framework and have passed legislation that mandates the use of the framework in all aspects of K-12 education, from learning environments to curriculum design and core content to life skills.  With the help and feedback of educational, technological, and other large corporations, the framework has been honed to provide the essential building blocks of a solid, well-rounded education that will not only prepare our kids for the high-paying and productive jobs of the new century, but will also create citizens that are charged with keeping our democracy intact and safe for all.

Please read more about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills at

School Cuts Leave Students Woefully Unprepared

Welcome to the new EdFocus blog site!  This is a source for all things that are related to the need for, journey to, and successes in educational change.  To begin, let me share with you a guest opinion piece I wrote to the Statesman Journal, the newspaper of record in Marion County, Oregon.  And be sure to check in often for more research, news, calls to action, and stories to keep on top of the ongoing endeavor to revive our youth’s economic, academic, and global competitiveness.

School Cuts Leave Students Woefully Unprepared    June 14, 2011

Kris Nielsen

“Many teachers in Salem-Keizer School District continue to wait to hear of their fates. But this letter is about something more socially impacting: student achievement and the future we are creating for America and, even more pressing, for Salem and Keizer.

In the wake of the “Great Recession,” it’s easy to see how taking a few bucks off the teachers and students over the next two years will ensure a more balanced budget in the short term. But what of the longer term, when our graduating classes of 2014 and beyond have only limited skills, which will prevent them from competing locally, much less globally?

To make that point a little more relevant, let me share my biggest concern: technology. As a math teacher in middle school, I am charged with making sure that all my students have the foundations for algebra and geometry conceptually mastered before they enter the high schools. This means our students must move beyond the basic skills and become increasingly proficient in analysis and evaluation (also called “critical thinking”).

In high school, students master the application of these concepts and are then, in theory, ready for employment or college.

Unfortunately, they’re not. Most students in Salem-Keizer have limited access to technology in math and science classes, and that technology is generally limited to the slow, outdated PCs that are shared by the entire school.

The reason this is damaging is that no globally competitive company uses this technology anymore, and our students’ limited access actually hinders their competence in the post-K-12 world.

In fact, most schools still are stuck requiring their math students to use graph paper and pencils — which is a monumental waste of time when we could have technology do the busy work for them, thus opening up opportunities for analysis, change and application. Colleges and employers alike speak to the frustrations of receiving high school graduates who are not ready to begin college or work, because no company uses graph paper and pencils — or even Excel 2003.

The reality is that we are in a downward spiral as we become less and less competitive. The state of Oregon has cut education budgets to bare bones. We are nervous about our economy now, but it’s nothing compared to what the economy will look like in the future as we move our kids through a strangled education system that has few resources to maximize their potential in an increasingly global and technological economy.

Copyright © 2011 All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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